Billy Blythe
Composer: Bonnie Montgomery
Composer Bio: Bonnie Montgomery, a native Arkansan, picked up Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life, in 2006 and saw stories ready for the operatic stage. She couldn’t lose the vision of Virginia (Clinton) Kelly and Billy (Clinton) Blythe singing an aria together onstage.
Montgomery is formally trained in music education and vocal performance but operatic composition was new to her. Still, she was on fire about a contemporary American opera set in her home–an often overlooked, southern state rich with musical heritage. She wanted to share the inspiration she had gleaned from global visionaries who also called Arkansas home.
Montgomery teamed with friend and fellow southerner Brittany Barber to write the libretto and Billy Blythe was born. Montgomery studied music at Ouachita Baptist University, then at UMKC Conservatory of Music. She focused on American art song and folk music with emphasis on Arkansas’ musical heritage.
She has also worked and performed in Asia, Mexico, Australia and Europe, during which she learned an even greater appreciation for her home state and region, where her family still owns and operates a local music store on the court square in White County.
Librettist: Britt Barber
Librettist Bio: Britt Barber, originally from New Orleans, but whose roots belong to Magnolia, Arkansas, found such delight in Ms. Montgomery’s initial vision, she quickly snagged the opportunity to serve as partner in the endeavor.
Barber’s desire to portray the state through language and melodies shines with poetic brilliance. As a result, not all scenes are derived straight from My Life; poetic license prevails on more than one occasion. According to Barber, the accuracy to which characters’ personalities are revealed onstage is far more important than the brick bat of fact.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ouachita and a Master of Science in Child Counseling and Psychology from Georgia.
Barber currently writes advocacy copy for a communications agency based in Atlanta, but remains a poet a heart.
Original Cast: Jessica Bowers, Jason Thoms, Alex Krasser and Bryan Putnam with Rebecca Blinder, Amanda Hick, Brian Long, Bryan Plofsky, Dan Radzikowski, Wilyem Thoms and Kannan Vasudevan. Directed by Zachary James. Music Direction by Jonathan Rose.
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: June 19, 2011
Description: Billy Blythe, a short-length opera in one act, is a coming of age story set in the late 1950′s in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The work is a snapshot of Arkansas life and how the character, culture and landscape of southern Arkansas shaped the adolescence of former president Bill Clinton. The work’s name comes simply from Clinton’s birth name, which he changed at age sixteen.

The story portrays small town culture in Hot Springs during the late 50′s where Clinton’s vivacious mother, Virginia, comes to terms with the death of Billy’s father and her new marriage. Also portrayed is her husband Roger’s love for his family, but unmistakable struggle within himself. And, of course, Billy, who discovers how to fit into this construct of family, culture and truth.

This series of tableau's speaks not only to the South, but to any and all with an eye for vision. Beneath its playfulness, Billy Blythe captures the mysticism of Arkansas and its influence on a global visionary during his formative years.
Reviews: Billy Blythe in The Christian Science Monitor! - The Christian Science Monitor 12/17/2010
Length: Length is not available.
Total Acts: 1
Contact: Bonnie Montgomory
E-mail Address:
Composer Web Site:
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